Alicia’s sexual assault storyline has been met with praise and positive reviews these past couple of months and it all came to a head this week as Alicia finally charged her rapist during a face-to-face standoff, but it doesn’t end well. Will Alicia make it out alive?
Saturday’s episode of Casualty was an exceptional roller-coaster ride of emotion and drama, focusing mostly on Alicia and her struggle to prosecute her assaulter, Eddie. One of the reasons this story has been so admired is because of Alicia’s character and how well-loved she is by fans. As a long-running doctor, viewers have seen her on-off relationship with Ethan develop, the progression of her professional career from fresh junior doctor to a highly-respected registrar, and we’ve seen her go from a slightly reckless party-girl to a much more mature and responsible adult. Furthermore, these past few weeks we have felt her emotion as she has had her life turned upside down, and an isolated, enraged side of the character has thrived in the place of what once was a bubbly and care-free attitude.
This could not have been pulled out of the bag if it wasn’t for Chelsea Halfpenny and her incredible performance. Her nuance expressions are so riddled with every single feeling Alicia is going through, from stress, to anger, to vulnerability and it’s a beautiful exploration of the character which we have never seen before. The fact that Alicia is such a well-rooted and strong character really gives this storyline even more importance, and I hope it also gives confidence and faith to so many real victims of rape and sexual assault who were watching on Saturday.
I will say that, as Alicia’s story has been so incredible and important, the sub-plot of this episode involving the treatment of a fellow paediatrician’s wife after she is caught on fire was very uninteresting. I understand the show does need scenes to break up the suspense when a very sensitive and intense topic is being discussed such as this one, but I don’t think it paid off on this occasion. I think the attempts of invoking some emotion for the paediatrician’s family were lost causes as viewers are just not connected to those characters. Additionally, I partly-feel like Alicia deserves a full episode to really drag out her journey and make it even more potent. The scenes were already accurate and intricate but it would have been even better, and kept more viewers engaged, had the story had that little bit more screen time and more suspense.
I’m not an expert on sexual assault but, nonetheless, I would like to talk about the representation of rape in the show because I thought it was genius. The circumstances, the situation, the characters; it’s not something you normally see on telly and I think that’s so important. As the story is not as well-known or maybe not as common as most circumstances of rape, I have noticed it has opened up that opportunity for people to talk about the grey areas and the more subtle signs of sexual assualt which is so cool. Viewers have been following Alicia for years now and to watch her be confronted with an attack which wasn’t necessarily violent, it wasn’t bloody, it wasn’t being committed by a stranger, and to have the character be so affected and so traumatised really goes a long way to showing that it is wrong, no matter how un-stereotypical it is.
I really do applaud the writers for tackling this storyline because it feels so real and I have never seen anything like it on TV. Normally, a rape plot is very obvious and violent in TV and movies but sometimes that’s just not realistic and, for a show that’s not necessarily explicit, they have managed to discuss the small nuances that made this a rape case without it being too graphic. The flashbacks were done so well because they weren’t unnecessarily detailed and only showed what was important. The shots from Eddie’s point of view were so simple and yet so horrifying.
We also got a surprising reveal in this episode which I did not see coming. During an interview with Alicia, a CCTV tape shows her and Eddie having consensual sex in an alleyway on the same night before Alicia was raped. Again, I cannot applaud the writers enough for just giving it everything; throwing in everything against Alicia to show how hard rape cases are to prove and to show how much is against real victims. It’s like the show runners didn’t want to do a same-old, blasé rape storyline, they wanted to make it big and important and different. I think, more than anything, I hope this makes people talk and potentially make people realise that, just because a rape is not conventional, doesn’t make it any less traumatising. I think there may even be people watching who have been through Alicia or Eddie’s situation and haven’t realised the impact. The show goes so far to put all possible hindrances against Alicia that even Eddie himself is in denial and blocked out what actually happened that night, because Eddie does seem genuinely confused. Some viewers may argue the character is just a really good manipulator and liar but I personally feel like he actually did block out what really happened that night, shown really well in Eddie and Alicia’s separate flashbacks. There are mindsets out there that would brush off a clear “No” as being wild and playful, and people who think because they’ve already had sex that night, it makes it OK. If just one viewer has realised, through Alicia’s heart-breaking struggle, that the unconventional signs of rape are just as wrong, or even that what happened to Alicia was rape, then Casualty has done some amazing work!
Even though I feel rape is discussed openly, I still learned a lot of new things from this storyline, in particular the “freezing” reaction when a victim is stuck between fight or flight and therefore doesn’t react or try and fight off their attacker. I thought this was so interesting and not usually talked about as I had never heard of it before. I feel people could naively miss these signs if they were intimate with someone, especially if they are young or inexperienced, and could end up seriously assaulting someone. This shouldn’t excuse anyone, but I hope this story helps prevent people who could have potentially committed in the future, and therefore reduce the cases of rape.
I can’t talk about this issue enough to be honest. I love the show for giving us Alicia, a really influential character, being so traumatised and heavily affected by what Eddie believed was normal. I hope it shows others that this situation shouldn’t be seen as normal. The dialogue and behaviour of the police officers and the interviewers were so realistic and detailed. Alicia’s interviewer was clear and sensitive, as well as trying to bring up horrific items that could affect the court case, like the fact Alicia first initiated the kiss with Eddie, and thinking of ways to get around those obstacles. The police were not biased and they were objective as well as being kind to the victim. I loved how they showed both sides of the interviews, because doing what is normally done on TV, where they arrest the attacker and brush over the rest of the charge is just oversimplified and it’s a lot more complicated than that. They showed what actually happens in real life and Eddie’s character is so confident and almost charismatic which makes him feel like a genuine person, rather than just being labelled as “the rapist”.
In this episode, both Alicia’s interviewer and Connie begged the question “Why would Alicia go through all of this if she’s lying?” which was brilliant. The fact this was mentioned twice makes it a really potent message. Connie’s support for Alicia was only a couple of short scenes but felt so appreciated, and her powerful character had absolutely no problem standing up to Eddie which was great to watch. The last scene between Alicia and Eddie was a volcanic release of weeks worth of built-up tension, and I felt proud of Alicia for all her courage. The dialogue was so poignant and we could see both Eddie’s realisation of what he had done and Alicia’s passion and bravery flourishing to confront Eddie. It’s almost like Alicia has accepted what has happened and isn’t scared anymore. After all, it was Alicia who wanted the final showdown with Eddie and was able to talk about the whole night with confidence. The argument builds and builds and this is the moment Eddie looses it and attacks Alicia by throwing her through a glass door. I didn’t see that coming, did you? The E.D. is there to catch her though as Iain and Ruby come to her rescue. Iain instantly gets defensive and protective upon hearing Eddie attacked Alicia which was really comforting to watch.
A sense of the Holby community and support network isn’t just shown through the paramedics in this episode as Dylan presents quite a moving speech to his fellow colleagues, upon the successful treatment of one patient. Dylan’s character surprises us more and more with each episode. Following this, Gemma kisses Rash on the cheek. Awh. The only query I have is Where is Ethan? Alas, he is returning in next week’s episode, most probably to console and comfort Alicia, but what state will she be in?
The ending of the episode has to be the best finale in a while. I’ve been watching Casualty for over 12 years now and I don’t think the show has ever done something like this which is amazing that they can still come up with these unique ideas. I’m talking of course about the ambulance crash where we actually are massively restricted as viewers. We are only given the inside view of the ambulance during the crash, showing Alicia and Ruby getting knocked out. We can’t see Iain, we can’t see what’s happening on the road, and it’s probably the most on-edge I’ve been during a Casualty series finale. It was so simple, so easy, and yet we desperately want to know what happened. Additionally, leaving the big, bold stunts and explosions until the next episode is such a good call as it’s really going to entice viewers to watch the next series. Even though we’re practically blind as viewers to what is going on, the mystery makes us want to watch more. Will everyone survive next Saturday?
Casualty returns on BBC One on Saturday at 9:10pm